Best Crocus For Honey Bees, Bumble And Solitary Bees

I love crocus flowers, and if you are looking for an early spring flowering bulb for bees, crocus are a great choice.  That said, autumn flowering crocuses are available.

Crocus can be grown in pots, in the border, or in my view, one of the best places to see them: in the lawn.

Why are crocus valuable for bees?
The early spring flowering varieties are especially valuable because they provide plenty of pollen for early emerging queen bumble bees, solitary bee species, and especially foraging worker honey bees, keen to replenish the colony food stores following the winter months. 

Newly emerged bumble bee queens will also particularly benefit from the crocus pollen they gather from Autumn flowering varieties.

Which crocus are best for honey bees, bumble bees and solitary bees?

As far as I am aware, pretty much all of the crocus provide food for bees, but I tend to prefer the early spring flowering crocus, because they help bees when they are potentially vulnerable because other sources of food can be a bit limited.

I can especially recommended the following:

2 honey bees foraging on purple crocus flowers

1. 'Vanguard' 
A lovely mauve crocus, with orange styles.  Flowers from February - in my view, this makes it one of the best crocus for bees. 

Honey bees will face very cool temperatures in order to find food for the colony.

Like wise, pollen is an important source of protein and lipids (fats) for bees. 

Pollen is a valuable source of protein and fats for bumble bee queens emerging from hibernation whilst solitary bees store pollen in nest cells as food for larvae. 

2. Crocus tommasinianus – Early crocus, 'Whitewell Purple' 
Has slender purple petals and orange stamens.  Will flower from late winter to early spring, and helpful for early foraging bees.

Highly recommended for inclusion in your winter border for bees.


Reddish ginger tawny mining bee with a black head - a solitary bee species inside a purple crocusTawny mining bees emerge in Spring - here a female visiting crocus

3. Yellow Giant - 'Golden Yellow'
Produces large yellow flowers in spring from February to March.

4. Goldilocks
Another pretty, spring-flowering yellow crocus.

2 honey bees foraging on a group of yellow crocus flowersHoney bees foraging on 'Golden Yellow' crocus

5. 'Ruby Giant'
Stunning, rich purple flowers and with an orange stigma

bumble bee inside crocus flower

6. Joan of Arc
Large white flowers with purple at the base. The stigma is orange and frilly.

7. Autumn flowering crocus - Crocus speciosus

white tailed bumble bee queen foraging on a pale mauve crocus flower, Crocus speciosusNewly queen foraging on Crocus speciosus

A pale mauvish, lilac crocus with dark veins. It flowers from September to November, and provides late foraging bees with an additional food source. 

Newly emerged queen bumble bees need to consume a fair amount of pollen in order to lay down fat reserves for their winter snooze, so if you have space on a sunny lawn, or a few pots going spare, why not include some in your garden? 

If planting in a lawn, then arrange them in informal drifts for a natural look, but remember you cannot mow the lawn until after the leaves have died back.  

As with other crocus flowers, you can divide clumps of bulbs and plant elsewhere in the garden.

Are saffron crocus beneficial for bees?

Yes, bees also visit the saffron crocus Crocus sativus, which flowers in autumn.  

honey bees foraging inside purple saffron crocus, showing reddish saffron strandsHoney bee foraging on saffron crocus

It is of course possible to harvest the delicate strands of saffron from these flowers, which can then be dried, but you’ll need a lot of bulbs, not to mention time, to carefully remove the delicate strands.